It's been over a year since Rick DiPietro has won a game, or even play a game at the Nassau Coliseum.
But thanks to Trent Hunter's shootout winning goal, he doesn't have to worry about that anymore as the Islanders defeated the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 in a shootout at the Coliseum.
For DiPietro, getting his first win since December 26, 2008 was a huge weight off his shoulders.
"This is a big moment for me, a big moment moving forward," DiPietro said. "Most importantly we got the extra point which is going to be huge for us coming down to the end of the season. I can't even tell you how good this feels."
Strength and conditioning is always a concern, but for DiPietro, there wasnt anything to worry about.
"I felt great. I thought I was moving around the crease better than I was in Dallas," DiPietro said.
With both teams were tied at two goals apiece at end of 65 minutes of play, Hunter emerged the hero in the eighth round to give the Islanders and DiPietro the win in a thrilling shootout.
The Islanders and Sabres were deadlocked after three rounds, and both teams continued to match each other goal for goal during the fourth and sixth rounds.
However, Hunter answered for the Islanders in the eighth round to put his team ahead with a hard wrist shot over the shoulder of Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller. Fortunately for the Islanders and DiPietro, Patrick Kaleta missed his opportunity to give the Islanders the victory.
"I had a couple of chances to close it out there, that's something I don't like to let happen often," DiPietro said. "We'll take it and we'll move on."
Islanders Head Coach Scott Gordon thought DiPietro played exceptionally well in net.
"First thing he says afterwards is 'I gotta work on my shootouts tomorrow,'" Gordon said. "He's a perfectionist and that can be a very explosive team. One of the things I thought he did well tonight was control rebounds. That, to me, has always been one of his strengths to his game."
John Tavares put the Islanders on the board first 5:38 into the first period with his 17th goal of the season. The play started as Kyle Okposo led a two-on-one rush with Josh Bailey into the Buffalo zone. Okposo elected to take the shot as the Buffalo defended was playing to prevent a pass across.
The shot deflected off Miller's glove hand and trickled out towards the slot. But Tavares followed through on the play, poking his stick in and deflecting the rebound over Miller to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead.
The goal comes as a huge relief to Tavares, who previously had one goal in his last 16 games. Okposo received a primary assist on the goal, extending his point scoring streak to five games (four goals, one assist).
Sean Bergenhiem put the Islanders up by two goals with 4:27 left in the second period with his fifth goal of the season. Andrew MacDonald fired a slapshot towards Miller that looked to be heading wide of the Buffalo net. However Bergenheim was right there to deflect the shot past the Buffalo netminder to put the Isles ahead 2-0.
"There was a (little eye contact)," Bergenheim said. "I was yelling for it. I actually saw him looking at me, so I knew it was coming."
It was Bergenheim's first goal since November 27.
However, Mike Grier would answer just 21 seconds later for the Sabres to cut the Islanders lead in half to 2-1. Grier parked himself in front of DiPietro while former Islander Tim Connolly let a shot fly towards the net. Just like Bergenheim did earlier, Grier redirected the shot past DiPietro for his ninth goal of the season.
The Islanders had many chances to increase their score, as they peppered Miller and the Buffalo defense with 21 shots in the second period.
Josh Bailey nearly put the Islanders up by two goals early in the second period while on the power play. With Tyler Myers serving the tail end of a cross checking minor, Bailey retrieved a loose rebound that drew Miller to the ice. With what looked like an open net staring Bailey in the face, Bailey's shot was kept out of the Buffalo cage by the shaft of Sabres defenseman Chris Butler's stick.
Frans Nielsen had two beautiful opportunities to increase the Islanders lead on another power play opportunity later in the period, but were denied by Miller. Matt Moulson fed a centering pass from just below the goal line to a waiting Nielsen. However, Nielsen's shot met the sliding right pad of a sprawled Miller. The rebound opportunity was also fruitless, as Nielsen was denied by the goal post to hold the Islanders lead to one goal.
Richard Park looked to put the Islanders ahead by two goals with a key insurance marker early in the third period. But the goal was waived off by the referee, who ruled that Andy Sutton interfered with Miller, to keep the score at 2-1.
It would prove to be a key moment in the game, as Drew Stafford tied the game up just three minutes later to even up the score at 2-2. Stafford pounced on a rebound from a Butler shot and slid the puck past DiPietro for his 12th goal of the season.
Three Stars of the Game:
1. Rick DiPietro, NYI: 30 saves in his first win since December 26, 2008 2. Ryan Miller, BUF: 36 saves for Buffalo 3. Trent Hunter, NYI: Scored shootout winning goal
Slapshots: Islanders outshot Buffalo, 38-33...John Tavares led all Islanders with 5 shots on goal...Mark Streit led all Islanders in ice time 27:26...Islanders were 0-4 on the power play, while Buffalo was unsuccessful on two man advantages...Jeff Tambellini, Nate Thompson, and Martin Biron (all healthy) were the Islanders scratches...This was the final meeting of the year between the two teams, with both teams splitting the season series...Islanders now have an all-time record of 54-67-19 against the Sabres.